Published on April 6th, 2017 | by The Beam0
The Community Power Movement Is On The Rise In Japan
April 6th, 2017 by The Beam
By Shota Furuya, from the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies
The 1st World Community Power Conference was held in Fukushima City last November, the year of the fifth commemoration of the Fukushima disaster and one year after the Paris Climate Agreement. More than 600 people from over 30 countries participated in the conference and discussed the role that community power has to play in the global shift towards 100% renewable energy. The participants agreed to the “Fukushima Community Power Declaration,” a declaration expected to become the starting point for a global community power reflection.
Let us look at what history has taught us in order to envisage the future of community-based renewable energy.
What does Community Power mean?
Community Power is characterized by local ownership, decision making and distribution of economic and social benefit. In other words, Community Power ensures that local communities have democratic control of renewable energy installations during the planning, installation and operation period, as well as profit from the majority of the economic and social benefits.
Where does it come from?
The origin of the Community Power comes from the Danes. After the oil crisis in the early 1970’s, the Danish wind power pioneers started to arrange collective ownership models with neighbours to establish wind turbine cooperatives. Backed with the strong Danish cooperative tradition and tangible benefit of wind, the community-owned wind turbines saw positive response from the population. In the early 2000s, 150,000 households were co-owners of a local wind turbines. Germany followed a similar pathway with the combination of Feed-in-Tariff and energy cooperatives. Driven by both the anti-nuclear movements, and because of the geographical proximity to Denmark, some citizen groups started to organize wind power cooperatives in northern areas in the ’90s. The Renewable Energy Act (EEG) then enabled the stable growth of citizens’ collectively owned renewable energy systems including wind and solar. From four in 2007, the number of solar PV cooperative jumped to 600 in 2012.
Community Power Movement in Japan
Inspired by movements developed in Denmark and Germany, community power projects started to appear in Japan in the early 2000s, especially after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Some examples include:
Hokkaido Green Fund
The success story of the Hokkaido Green Fund saw the first citizen-funded wind power project in Japan, established in September, 2001.
When Hokkaido Green Fund and its supporters decided to construct their own wind turbine, they faced a serious financing problem, partly because of the immaturity of the renewable energy industry in Japan and because Japanese banks had never financed renewable energy projects before. As a newly established non-profit organization without outstanding assets, Hokkaido Green Fund barely stood a chance to get the necessary ¥100 million.
Tohru Suzuki, director of Hokkaido Green Fund, then realized that if it’s difficult to get a bank loan, why not raise funding by ourselves?
In the process of researching the possibility of citizen funded raising, Tohru Suzuki reached out to many experts, among them Tetsunari Iida, executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) who helped to establish with other experts that such a project was legal and possible in Japan.
Once this first step was done, Hokkaido Green Fund started calling for investments. The ambitious project brought on a mixture of excitement and anxiety among the staff and supporters. Such a wind power investment fund was completely new, there was no other case in Japan. The target amount of money (¥141.5 million) was soon collected from 217 investors, the rest of the cost being covered by a bank loan.
After the successful first project, Hokkaido Green Fund kept supporting new projects in other areas and before the Fukushima nuclear disaster, twelve citizen wind turbines had been built, most of them owned by the local communities.